Pollution in San Clemente Beach

Beach Blog #3 San Clemente, Orange County

Lens: Pollution

San Clemente beach is one of the most beautiful as well as one of the most well-known beaches in Southern California. In a recent article earlier this year, the southern California beach of San Clemente was reported to have a substantial amount of waste pollution. It ended up costing local officials $78,000 to figure out the reason and to make reparations.

Beachgoers walk under the pier in San Clemente, where newly-installed netting aims to prevent pigeons from roosting in large numbers, which contributes to local water pollution levels, on Wednesday, July 8, 2020. (Photo By Jeff Antenore, Contributing Photographer)

San Clemente Pier was noted to be one of California’s most polluted beaches. This not only harms the city’s reputation, but this also causes worry about the city’s water regulations. High levels of bacteria have been found near and around the pier after numerous tests. High bacteria can be due to a number of reasons, but local officials point to pigeons being attracted to the pier and nesting directly on it. When hundreds of pigeons make the pier their home, their waste easily makes its way to the water directly below it. While the tests did find proof of pigeon DNA, the tests also pointed to human DNA. It is unlikely that humans our directly using the beach as a restroom. Human DNA might have travelled through nearby watershed and recycled water. Even after the city installed netting to deter pigeons from nesting, pigeons returned and the problem persisted, and bacteria levels remained high. Because no clear has been found, the city will have to spend even more to find solutions and maintain this beach as clean as possible.


Why is this important? The pier is a popular beach for locals and tourists to enjoy and its important that we do all we can in order to keep clean and safe beaches for the city’s economic prosperity. Small children and surfers swimming nearside the pier may get sick from the bacteria in the water. In addition to recreation, it is important to keep beaches clean in order to make sure that beach ecosystems have a chance to thrive. Consistent high levels of bacteria damage ecosystems and wipe out fragile species. Not to mention, this specific pier and beach are known as the city’s heart and soul and it is important to maintain a positive reputation

4 thoughts on “Pollution in San Clemente Beach

  1. kyle.smith967@myci.csuci.edu says:

    Great post Cecilia!
    It’s funny you post this as I plan to head down there tomorrow to go fishing. This beach’s pier is largely populated by birds and I can support the idea birds are causing problems. This pier still has great fishing and a huge kelp bed not too far from the pier’s end that results in a diverse fish population. It is not uncommon to catch shark and 80 Lb plus rays. The storm drains that dump urban runoff underneath the pier also plays a major role in the rising pollution of that beach. The city has made stricter mandates to combat the toxins washed to shore in run off, but it may still not be enough. That beach also has a fish haven that is protected near the kelp bed not far from the pier. I hope the bacteria levels measured in the water near the pier don’t hurt the protected area.

  2. Grant Hassinger says:

    It is interesting that they can isolate the bacteria. I wonder how the different the bacteria in a human gut is from a pigeon gut. I would expect there to be some kind of crossover between the two. It is also interesting how the problem eventually led to the bird spikes needing to be placed because of the local water quality. We would have to remember that the water in the ocean may not be exchanged as we would typically assume.

  3. lydia.rios685@myci.csuci.edu says:

    Your illuminating post was quite alarming. I appreciated your insight into the pollution that is going on at the beach and the contamination of the water. When people go to the beach, I’m sure no one thinks of the contamination in the water. Blissful moments spent at the beach can’t happen if there are pollutants and dangers at bay. Thank you, Cecilia, for the most insightful post.

  4. Jasmine De Casas says:

    Hi Cecilia,
    Your blog on the pollution in San Clemente Beach was quite interesting to read, it was also very informative. It really is heartbreaking to hear how polluted beaches have gotten throughout the years, it almost seems like as time progresses it just gets worse. I never realize that wildlife can also be a major issue when it comes to local water pollution levels! Do you feel as if the netting works when it comes to deterring pigeons away from these areas? What do you think is another preventative measure the city can take in order to curve the levels of pollution at this particular beach? It is truly essential that we all understand and live by the rule of taking the things and trash we brought with us out. What do you think is another good rule of thumb for us to have when it comes to visiting beaches? Great post!

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